The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has received 1,292 reports covering 2,054 cases of occupational Covid-19 infection in health and social care settings since November 2020, when a legal notification requirement came into force, according to figures up to 4 March.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has not published statistics on healthcare worker infections since December. However, HPSC data has indicated a far higher number of workplace-acquired healthcare worker infections than reflected in notifications to the HSA.
For example, between November 2020 and April 2021, the HPSC received reports of almost 7,000 cases of healthcare worker infections described as workplace-acquired.
According to a spokesperson for the HSA, it was also aware of 22 reports of healthcare workers who have reportedly died with Covid-19. “The Authority does not discuss or comment on any matters that relate to individual investigations, but we have investigations into these reports to ascertain the relevant facts,” the spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI).
The State Claims Agency informed MI six claims have been made against the HSE by healthcare workers due to illness arising from Covid-19 infection allegedly acquired in the workplace. One claim has been made following the death of a healthcare worker following Covid-19 infection. Legal proceedings have not yet been issued in any of these claims.
In 2021, the HSA conducted 446 inspections in the health and social care sector. Some 343 written advices and 13 improvement notices were issued “covering a range of occupational health and safety matters”.
“We carry out our functions in accordance with the national occupational safety and health legislation. We have engaged with the HSE, along with other employers in the sector, around the requirements and controls in place to protect workers and we will continue to engage with them.”
On foot of additional Government funding, the Authority is establishing a new division to give “further emphasis to occupational health as part of our wider occupational safety and health mandate”.
“We are currently in the process of recruiting an Assistant Chief Executive who will lead this new division. As a member of the Authority’s executive team, the person appointed will play a key role in the delivery of our legislative, policy and strategic priorities in the area of occupational health.”
The role was first advertised in autumn 2021.